After months of debate and negotiation, Congress approved a massive $867 billion farm bill spurred in part by pressure from farmers battered by President Donald Trump’s trade war with China.
But, if signed into law, what will it mean for local farmers?
“My father immigrated here in 1950 from Holland.”
Eric Ooms can trace his family’s farming heritage back to 1525. Flash-forward to 2018 and it’s the age of milking robots and trade wars.
“Soy beans are just decimated; dairy’s been hit,” said Ooms.
Ooms says tariffs from China and Mexico are weighing heavily on milk prices. His have taken up to a 10 percent hit.
“A lot of farmers are empathetic that something needs to be done about trade, but the reality is, that’s easy to say when it’s not your family that you have to try to pay bills,” said Ooms.
It’s pressure from farmers that in part spurred the Farm Bill, but almost 80 percent of the funding is going to nutrition programs, not farmers.
“If you’re already in really bad shape, this is helpful, but it may or may not save you,” said Ooms.
The bill includes lower insurance premiums for farmers, more options for risk management, and expanded support for farms that are struggling. And many of them are.
“We have seen a loss of about 1,000 dairy farms in the past five years in New York. That’s almost 20 percent of our farms,” said New York Farm Bureau Spokesman Steve Ammerman.
He says Upstate New York’s number one industry is in difficult times.
“So that’s why it’s important to have a farm bill in place offers a stronger safety net, more flexibility, and better prices for our farmers,” said Ammerman.
Ooms has learned to evolve his farm to be profitable– investing in technology and diversifying with grain now accounting for 20 percent of his profits. He says it’s a tough road, but he wouldn’t trade it for anything.
The bill is now headed to the desk of President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it.